Does Creatine Break a Fast? Important Facts to Consider

Creatine is a popular sports nutrition supplement with hundreds of clinical studies backing its use for ability to increase muscle mass and strength.

Because creatine has no immediate effect, you must supplement with it daily to increase stores of it in your muscle cells and then continue supplementing it — ideally daily — to maintain these increased muscle stores. However, if you're into some form of fasting, you might wonder whether you can supplement with creatine while still preserving the benefits of fasting.

This article explains whether taking a creatine supplement will break a fast or affect insulin levels as well as how much creatine you should take.

Understanding Fasting

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that alternates periods of eating with periods of either no food or very little food. Although it has grown in popularity, intermittent fasting isn't new. People have practiced fasting for millennia for religious, ethical, or health reasons.

The idea of intermittent fasting isn't to intentionally restrict calories — although it often leads to consuming fewer calories — but to lower inflammation, improve cell repair processes, and flip the metabolic switch from glucose as its main fuel source to fatty acid-derived ketones (1).

There are many variations of intermittent fasting, each varying in the duration and timing of the hours in which you fast. Some of the most popular ones include (1):

  • The 16/8 Method: This method involves fasting every day for 16 hours and eating during the remaining hours.

  • The 5:2 Diet: With this method, you eat normally five days of the week, and then eat 0 to 25% of your daily calorie needs (0 to 500 calories for the average person) for the other two days of the week.

  • Whole-Day Fasts: Also known as eat-stop-eat, you don't eat anything for 24 hours once or twice per week.

Generally, no food is allowed during the fasting windows, except with certain variations like the 5:2 diet, but you can drink beverages that don't contain calories or contain negligible amounts such as water or unsweetened tea or coffee (coffee still provides around two calories per eight-ounce cup).

Depending on the reason for intermittent fasting, some people drink coffee containing medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, ghee, coconut oil, or butter. These items technically break a fast, but keep ketones as the body's fuel source instead of glucose.

Creatine Overview

Creatine is a compound made up of three amino acids — l-arginine, glycine, and l-methionine. Your body produces it naturally, primarily in the liver and kidneys. It's also found in animal foods like beef, chicken, and fish.

While you can get it from these foods, you'd have to consume many pounds to get what you could from a single serving of a creatine supplement.

There are various forms of creatine supplements, but the most effective, safe, and researched form is creatine monohydrate. Taking creatine has been shown to significantly enhance muscle growth and exercise performance in both men and women, young or old (2).

Creatine also has benefits outside of the gym. For instance, increasing research suggests that creatine supplementation offers neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects and supports immune and cognitive function. Research also suggests that creatine supplementation has antidepressant effects (2, 3).

With these benefits and its strong safety profile, most people can benefit from taking creatine daily, including those who don't lift weights.

Does Creatine Break a Fast?

Creatine is a peptide, meaning it's composed of individual amino acids, three to be exact. These individual amino acids are the building blocks for protein, which provides around four calories per gram.

Although supplement companies can't label creatine as protein on the Supplement Facts panel, and therefore don't need to list calories, it doesn't mean that creatine provides no calories.

To this point, creatine still likely provides the same four calories per gram as protein. Some creatine products may list calories as zero, but this is because the caloric amount is less than five calories. That said, the answer to whether creatine supplementation breaks a fast isn't exactly straightforward, ultimately hinging on how you define a break in a fast.

If your definition is based on calories, than creatine does break a fast, in which case, you also shouldn't drink coffee, but if it's based on whether it triggers an insulin response or raises blood sugar, then the answer is probably not.

On this note, a study in rats demonstrated that eight weeks of creatine supplementation increased fasting insulin levels, but studies in humans only show an increase in insulin secretion with creatine in the presence of glucose, which you wouldn't be consuming anyways during a fast (4).

Practical Advice for Supplementing with Creatine While Fasting

Creatine is not considered a protein, therefore manufacturers are not required to list its calories as they would for proteins. However, those that do, list creatine as calorie free since the standard five-gram serving provides fewer than five calories.

Still, this doesn't mean that creatine is calorie free — is still likely provides around four calories per gram — the same as protein. But, with the few calories that creatine provides and because it likely has no effect on insulin response, taking creatine during fasting is highly unlikely to interfere with any of the purported benefits or reasons for which you're fasting.

Conversely, if you're fasting for religious reasons, it's probably best to consume creatine during your eating window.

If you're new to creatine, there are two general ways to supplement it. The first and most common way is called the loading phase in which you take 20-25 grams daily for five to seven days followed by the maintenance phase during which you take three to five grams daily. The alternative is to skip the loading phase and instead take the three- to five-gram maintenance dose (1)

Both methods are equally effective, but it will take three to four times longer to experience creatine's benefits if you skip the loading phase since it will take longer to saturate your muscle cells with the compound.

It's best to supplement creatine daily, including on rest days from the gym, but if you fast for multiple consecutive days, you can always double or triple your dose before and after the fast to keep your creatine muscle stores high.

Most creatine supplements provide creatine alone with no additives, but there are some products that are flavored. These flavored products usually provide sweeteners or flavoring agents that are not a significant source of calories.

Creatine is fairly water-soluble, so you can easily mix it in water with a spoon or in a shaker cup. Concerning taste, in my opinion, creatine by itself has a mildly bitter taste, but other people report it has a mildly salty flavor.

Conclusion

Owing to its potential health benefits, various forms of intermittent fasting have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Most forms of fasting require abstaining from all calorie-containing foods or ingredient. In this case, because creatine likely provides around four calories per gram, it's best to save creatine for your eating window.

However, if you define breaking a fast based on insulin or blood sugar response, taking creatine is likely OK during your fasting window since it hasn't been shown to have an effect by itself.

In either case, you will get the most benefit from supplementing with creatine monohydrate — the most effective and well-studied form — daily.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does Creatine Spike Insulin?

There are no clinical trials to suggest creatine alone spikes insulin, including in people with diabetes.

2. Does Creatine Break Autophagy?

Insulin and amino acids — which comprise creatine — are two main inhibitors of autophagy, a natural, protective process that recycles old and damaged cell parts (5).

3. What Are the Benefits of Creatine While Fasting?

Creatine supplementation hasn't been well studied in fasting scenarios. However, it will offer the same benefits during fasting that it does during eating windows. What's more, if you exercise while fasting, you'll likely experience less fatigue during high intensity exercise since creatine replenish adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an important source of energy. It will also support muscle maintenance and help minimize muscle loss.

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